Sunday, October 14, 2012

Do You Stick to Your Genre?

Over the past few weeks I've been reading two very different books.  Both are by really big, extremely talented authors (and though I'm not going to name them, you can probably guess who...).  

One of these books is a brilliant conclusion to a brilliant series.  The author did what she does best and wrote a book every one of her fans will love.  I devoured every page.

The other book is a complete departure from what the author normally writes.  I pretty much hated it, and even though I'm the sort of reader who ALWAYS finishes what I start, I couldn't plow through this one.  I knew it would be different from what she'd written before, but it was TOO different for me.

A few years ago I went to a workshop about building a successful writing career.  The author talked about how she' never been able to stick with a genre.  She'd bounced all over from children's books to adult literary fiction.  She sold them all to different publishers and thought she was doing pretty well.  She loved each book and was excited to see all of them find places on bookstore shelves.  

She said it was a terrible career move.  The fans of one book didn't like (or didn't read) the others. So even though she had multiple books out, none did very well.  

I've toyed with writing different genres.  I normally write contemporary MG, but I've tried fantasy too. I have a dystopian YA that I think is kind of good.  I once dreamed of writing adults literary fiction.  

There are a few authors who are successful in more than one genre--like Shannon Hale and Neil Gaiman. But I think it's hard to do well.

Do you write in one genre or many?  Will you stick to a genre after you have a book or two published?


Janet Johnson said...

I do jump around a bit, too. Not drastically so, but it's hard to stick to one when I have so many interests. But I can see the point of being consistent. :)

Britney Gulbrandsen said...

I jump around. It's kind of a problem and I know it's not a good career move. That being said, I write what I love and if I don't love it, why am I doing it?

I don't write for money. I write because I"m passionate about it and I want to share my words with others in hopes to bring joy in to their lives.

So I'll write whatever I feel like writing :)

Tricia J. O'Brien said...

It is a conundrum. I've heard agents say a writer should at least do three books in one genre before jumping to another. Otherwise there's a risk of losing those first readers before they become real fans.
Neil Gaiman's skill and productivity amaze me. I love his kids' stories like the Wolves in the Walls as much as his adult novels like Neverwhere. How does he do it???

Wen Baragrey said...

The thing I love about Neil Gaiman is that he is SO Neil Gaiman, no matter what he writes. You can pretty much pick the author of his work no matter the genre, format, whatever. He's very distinctively himself. Even his blog posts and tweets are uniquely him. I adore his work, and his wife (she kissed me once, you know--after a gig, not...anyways).

I struggle with this (as you know, Nat, haha). I started out with YA, and have now started some MG as well. I love them both. I don't have any interest in writing for adults at all, so I'm hoping I'll be forgiven for my slight genre hopping there. I've decided to say I write for kids, not specifically which ones :D

Heather Sunseri said...

Probably too early to tell for me. I think it kind of depends on where the journey takes me. I do think I'll stay pretty close to the same genre until I've built a foundation of readers.

Joanne Fritz said...

I've written picture books, two MG novels and had a false start on a YA and another false start on a second/third grade chapter book. I've also written an adult memoir. So yeah, I'm all over the place. My heart seems to be in MG though, so that's probably where I'll settle if/when I ever get published!

Natalie, I could be wrong, but isn't this why some famous authors use pseudonyms when they change genres?

Anita Saxena said...

Great post.
I've always written YA Fantasy and primarily read novels with paranormal or fantastical elements in them. But the past year or two I've been reading a lot of YA contemporary like Stephanie Perkins, John Green, and Sarah Dessen. And I found out I LOVE YA Contemporary. These are the novels that I find that I listen to more than once on audio book, or just randomly pick up for a feel good read. I can't say which I love more, Fantasy or Contemporary. But, I will concede that my new novel that I'm working on is contemporary.